Permanent Outdoor Lights (Christmas lights)

good to know! I didn’t know you could get them from other places, as well as I have seen the NodeMCU boards, but thought there was another part that I would have to get with them. Here is where I am saying I need to learn a lot more on this to fully formulate my plan and how I want it to work, as well as what software & firmware to use. It was a deep hole that I got myself into and thought I had it figured out, and then got a little lost again…so…yeah!!

that’s awesome. You should start your own thread on what/how you did that. I’ve been considering doing something like that.

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These:

are cheap and easy to flash to get started with simple WLED setups.
These: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B093PH2K32/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_search_asin_title?ie=UTF8&psc=1
are a lifesaver for those who suck at soldering (me).

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Thinking I needed more than the NodeMCU board was one of my main hurdles, as the forums and instructions all seem to assume that we all know what those are, how they work etc.

There’s a premade controller which is just an ESP8266 with a power plug on one end and the JST connector on the other end that you can get on that fantastic Chinese boat that I’ve linked previously but here it is for ease: ATHOM Pre Flashed WLED 5V WS2812B LED Light Strip Controller|Home Automation Modules| - AliExpress

And that is where I was at and got lost before. I know I watched a video from DrzZz that showed his Digi-duo which I think was pretty much just a NodeMCU board seated into another board that had the power connections and a fuze and capacitor, etc, etc. But I also thought I saw someone else say they just used the NodeMCU…and the ESPixelstick that @niget2002 said he used had a similar set up as DrzZz. From there I could follow along with the firmware and the software (WLED and Xlights), it was just trying to figure out what board/controller to use.

I know a little bit to really get myself into trouble, so I guess my question with the NodeMCU is what pins are used on the bottom to connect everything to? I understand the power injection, but how do I power the NodeMCU, and what pin do I use for the Data to the LEDs. That was the crux of my issue.

Those connection kits look like a life saver. I have been improving my soldering skills, but trying to get the covering off those LEDs (I had some left over from another project I have been working on) was a PITA, and it looked like a very small pad to try and solder to. Then again, I think that was a 144/m strip that was left over.

Done.

The WLED forums help out a bunch with PIN assignments also when you flash your board and open up WLED on it (all it needs is USB power at that point) it is set to the default pin for data, I think it’s P4 if I remember?

Power goes to to the 5v PIN, and ground goes to any GND pin on the board. Next, you want to make sure that there’s a common GND wire going between the board/power/light strips.

Technical writing is not my forte so just ask if I’m not communicating clearly enough!

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A lot of what is on those daughter boards is the power conditioning for the Esp32. That way the same board can work on both 5v and 12v strings.

The daughter boards are what caused me to finally take the plunge.

Can I ask if you could expound upon this a little more? I understand the voltage difference, but just curious as to your thought process with the daughter boards. Are those just a bit more versatile? or you just had more options at that point?

It was just easier.

I didn’t want to have to mess with providing a clean voltage to the esp32 or dealing with figuring out the software, fuses, etc etc. When I ran into the espixelstick I was like, “oh man… this is my answer to everything”.

I don’t mind DIY’ing stuff (I have fully automated aquariums that I wrote all the code myself), but in this case, I needed/wanted something more ‘off the shelf’.

Does the daughter board convert the 3.3v logic to 5v?

Also with a 5v string I just hooked my ESP8266 directly to my 5v power supply, no conditioning or anything like that. I haven’t had any issues so far with that setup. I do wire the strip directly to the supply and not through the board though, just to keep the big current away from the board. I can’t think of anything easier!

Thanks for the reply, and it completely makes sense. I sort of want to do the same thing, but as I am looking at everything, I would like to save as much dinero as possible. I’m not saying I want cheaply made parts, but getting quality parts for a cheaper price, that would also help me in getting the CFO onboard.

If I am remembering correctly, I think I saw someone used 12v LEDs powered by a Meanwell 12v PS (or something like it), and just used a buck converter to power the NodeMCU. I know this is very crude (thanks MSPaint) but would something like this work:

@gspitman You just pin-pointed where I got lost in seeing something about the logic boards and whatnot in the electronics set up, so really looking to see if my drawing would work, or if there is something I am missing/needed that @niget2002 is saying would come with the daughter board as you have asked.

I’m not an electrical expert by any means, but I know that the board and the strips need a common ground connection, I don’t know if that works having it before the buck converter (experts please reply).

If you go 5v, you can eliminate the buck converter to go the lowest cost. Depending on the length of the strip you may have to “inject power” by wiring power on both ends.
image

How long of a string are you looking at?

Tracking on the Power Injection (PI). from what I have read, depending on what LEDs you get (5v, 12v, 24v) will determine how long the string can be before PI is needed. I know most projects for houses will be using the standard 5m (16.4ft), and most youtube videos I saw said that it wouldn’t hurt to just PI at the end of each of those lengths. My concern was more of what was actually needed for the control board (NodeMCU, ESPixelStick, DigiUno, QuinLED-Dig-Quad, etc). Saw some say that all that was needed was the NodeMCU (maybe with a logic board to ensure 3.3v on the data line to each strand), with others linking to some control boards/PSU combos that were starting at $400USD for just the control board (that would make it a little out of budget).

Then there is the question of how many are needed. Is it one per strand (no logic needed) or can one NodeMCU control multiple strands with a logic board to ensure each strand gets the full 3.3v (if I am even saying that correctly). I know that $400 board was capable of controlling like 16 different strands (hence the price), but that is where I got turned around and flipped upside down on what exactly was needed. I still need to measure my roof line to figure out how many LEDs are needed, and then go from there. I have a spare 24v Meanwell PS I was going to use on one of my 3D printers, but I can always repurpose that. I also have the buck converters as I was going to redo the electronics enclosure and incorporate an RPi with Octoprint on that printer as well. SO I understand that side of it, it was more of the what kind of controler is needed, how many, and is there anything else needed (i.e. logic board, fuze, capacitor, resistor).

The power injection is why I went with 12V. I managed to avoid PI on all the lights on my house (but I do have 4 starting locations). The worst is the string along the upper roof, which has a long wire at the start and then goes all the way across the roof. I bumped up the PSU adjust screw to about 13V to end up with 5V at the end of that run.

The pain image with the buck converter looks about right, except the ground after the buck converter may not be on the common ground. The converter might keep it the same, but it might not.

I have done a lot of installs in my house with dupont cables, soldered cables, even breadboards. I wanted something I could fix with garage tools, up on a ladder. So I went with soldered wires, covered in heat shrink filled with hot glue for all the exterior connections and the digi quad board has screw terminals for attaching the wires there. I ended up crimping ends on the wire to keep the wires from fraying in the screw terminals. I have a lot more confidence in this setup than I have on other project that live indoors.

I could have done all of that without the daughter board. Certainly.

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Don’t use 5v leds. I made that mistake. The power injection is a royal pain and I sometimes end up with ‘yellow’ white LEDs if I try to run all the strips at full power. I ended up just running everything at a max of 80% brightness to overcome the current drop.

Usually if you power at both ends they are all good. Do you run all on, all white, full bright, often in your effects? Or is it just annoying that you can’t? I ask because the strip I have over my garage is 252 5v lights (30/m) and if I try to run it full bright/full white, it’s damn near red at the end. Since I know to avoid that, it runs all of the other effects I want no problem.

Even at 25% brightness, they are quite visible from the other side of the neighborhood.

For the outdoor connections I use these: https://www.amazon.com/TICONN-Connectors-Waterproof-Insulated-Electrical/dp/B087PPQTQR They very nicely avoid the need to bring a soldering iron on a ladder.

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An ESP8266 running WLED can control around 750 leds no problem. As long as you connect the data (center) wire from one end to another you can put a few strings together. WLED now also supports virtual long strings on mulitple controllers, so you can have 2 controlers running lights 0-149 on the first one, then controller 2 can be 150-299 even though they can be completely separate power supplies wiring etc.

So quite frankly with the “expensive” option of Amazon ESP8266 you’re still looking at $4 per instance., and you can control 2 distinct runs with one board. Or combine multiple boards at $4/ea… I have NO idea what justifies the $400 solution. Before @jeffeb3 introduced me to WLED I was using a diy Falcon controller on a RPi which was still a total of about $50 and completely overkill.

The ws2815 are 12V and they also have a per pixel max current draw that is less. In the ws2812, it is 20mA for red, 20mA for blue and 20mA for green, 60mA for white. The ws2815 have a max of 20mA for any color at max brightness, including white.

I have on automation that turns them on full white for when I take out the trash. The lights are the best lighting between the front door any my trash cans.

Otherwise, yeah, 20% brightness is plenty for an appealing display.

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